If you feel like you just read the blog post about me moving to Nashville, it’s because you did. Today marks eight months in this city, and a month from today, my room will be full of boxes ready to be loaded in my parents’ minivan and taken to Kent, Ohio. While I was pretty sure this chapter of life in Nashville would be a temporary one given the nature of my work (a 9-12 month fellowship was why I moved here) and the nature of my attachment to my family (Nashville is 10 hours away from them), it feels sort of strange to be saying goodbye just as I was feeling that I’d found my place here.
It is with great excitement and probably the most complete sense of confidence I’ve ever had that I end my time in Nashville to begin the next chapter of life in Kent, Ohio. God has literally done some INSANE things to assure me that it’s the right choice, so if we are friends, ask me to tell you the stories….Anyways, I’m really looking forward to taking a job I think I will love alongside people I’ve known for years. My boss is my former professor, and one of my co-workers is my brother’s former roommate and my past-and-present design mentor who helped me when I was still using MICROSOFT WORD to design posters. The timing works out incredibly well for the move, I found an amazing apartment only a half mile from work, and I’ll only be two hours from my family in a location I really think I’ll thrive in.
But since I am human, it’s still hard to leave Nashville, a city I’ve struggled in and cursed at. Why would it be hard to leave a place I felt mostly alone in and mostly uncool in? As I think about that question, I think back about the others moves that have marked my life.
I think about graduating from high school and seeing my parents move from Mercer to Pittsburgh. Mercer was a place I didn’t exactly flourish in; high school was hard and socially challenging and our church environment provided a whole lot of loneliness instead of a whole lot of community. My bedroom in our house there was small and the location was far from the concerts and culture that my 21 year old self craved. But that day that I had to drive away from Mercer, I wept and mourned because it meant that a season was over, that a chapter of life that defined me and shaped me had come to an end.
I think about graduating from college and transitioning into adulthood. I was so ready to be done with papers and grades and constant social obligations and to-do lists. But there was still a sense of sadness that came when I unlocked my bike chain from the rack and wheeled my bike into my parents minivan, trying not to trip on my black graduation gown. I was ready to wear those robes, ready to cross that stage, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel like those robes were my mourning clothes.
Why are we sad when a friendship that had gone sour officially comes to an end? Why is it hard to say goodbye when we’re headed to the next place with great joy, confidence, and anticipation?
I suppose it’s because our temporal hearts love things that last– at least, that’s what I’ve come up with. I think that’s why – even when I knew a friendship had to end – I mourned. I think that’s why – even as I move and know it’s the right choice – it’s still hard for me to leave. These feelings have taught me that every moment does matter, that time does shape me, the place is important, grief happens even in good changes. With each new chapter begins and another one ends, these are lessons I will carry with me in future hellos and goodbyes.
Since deciding I would move to Kent, I experienced a strange kind of contentment in Nashville. I walked into church and knew quite a few people. I went to small group and felt super at home. I found my groove at work and felt comfortable taking on more responsibility there. I got invited to more social gatherings. Rather than these moments feeling like a betrayal – “Oh I see, God. Well now I’m leaving and NOW you decide to make it better here” – but rather a reminder of prayers answered.
God listened and answered for my prayers for a sense of direction and clarity and a sense of community. He just did it in a timeframe and by a timeline I probably would not have chosen. At the end of my time in Nashville is when my heart would feel settled, my friendships would become more natural, and my community would become more clear. At beginning of this feeling of contentment would come an overwhelming sense of peace and clarity that Nashville is not where I’m supposed to stay.
It is truly strange to feel content and fully prepared to pack up and ship out. It’s odd to find your place and then say goodbye. But it also feels like hope. It feels like hope because I’ve learned that the sweetest moments and clearest clarity comes when I stop white-knuckling it and admit that I’m not writing this story, even though I protect the pen like I am.
It’s a beautiful thing to know that feelings of contentment and friendship and community was part of my time in Nashville, and that encourages me for the next chapter. I know that it takes time, it takes work, and it takes showing up even when I don’t want to. There were many Wednesday nights where I didn’t want to go to small group. Now I’m planning a pizza night with two girls in my group (who I totally wrote off at the start,) and our small group often stays 30 minutes after we’re supposed to be done just to catch up, share news, and laugh about life. It’s seems like a small thing, but to me, it’s not.
The fact that I’m feeling a bit sad to leave people here in Nashville is a great joy. I’m thankful that my heart is not hardened from experiences that were super disillusioning and discouraging. I’m grateful that time has healed bitterness and created space for the hard and the good to live together.
There is a quote in a book by my favorite author, Marilynne Robinson, that I think captures this rather well. “Weary or bitter of bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.”
I’m thankful God let me wander 10 hours south. I’m thankful, too, that he’s bringing me home. I’m thankful to be only a two hour car ride from birthday parties and Christmas pageants and Saturday soccer games. I know that what lies ahead will have it’s weary and bewildering moments, too, just as every season does. But I know God will show up and faithful in Kent just as he has been in Greenville, Williamsport, West Middlesex, Mercer, Grove City, McKeesport, Troy Hill, and Nashville.
That’s who he is, that’s what he does.
“The Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?” ― John Ames in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
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